You may be unaware that it’s occurring, but each day we have personal narratives that play in our minds that drive our opinions on certain topics and aspects of life. These stories have been developed likely early in our lives, and when it comes to your money story, you typically learn this from your parents. It doesn’t have to be a direct lesson; it’s more likely something that you observed in your parent’s behaviours as you grew up and learnt about the world. If they were tight with money and never seemed to have enough, it’s likely that you’ll feel like you’re never satisfied either. If they spent money freely, used credit cards and it was abundant, you may have issues saving as an adult.
Although we can’t go back in time and learn our lessons over, we can evaluate our beliefs, understand where we currently are and work towards better future mentalities. Even though you have a personal narrative, it isn’t set in stone and like any habit it can be worked at, reframed and reshaped for a better outcome.
- Ask yourself
If you’re unsure of your money story, grab a journal, a pen and a comfortable seat so that you can begin some self-reflection. If you like prompts, we’ve listed some questions below that you can start to answer and get to the bottom of your own personal story.
- When you think of money what feeling within you begins to rise? It could be worry, calmness, excitement, fear, achievement, etc.
- Think back to when your parents would discuss money with you and with each other. What was the tone or overall attitude they used?
- What’s your first memory of money that you can recall and what emotion does it bring up?
- Did anyone specifically influence your money story such as a friend, family member or even someone you looked up to?
- How do you feel about saving money?
- How do you feel about spending money?
Via the answers to these questions, you will begin to see how your money story could’ve started in childhood but then followed you through to your adult life. Although some of your beliefs growing up may have served you then, they could be hindering you now if you’re stuck in the same cycle that was taught to you either consciously or unconsciously.
- Reframe & rewrite
It’s likely that your money story has turned into negative habits that are limiting your ability to budget as a working adult. Positive reframing is one way to turn something negative and destructive into something positive, much like when you’re feeling down so you reframe and write down all that you’re grateful for. Remind yourself that thoughts aren’t fixed and factual and make the time to question the assumptions and biases, embedded in your money habits.
One exercise to help you to reframe is to write down 3 negative beliefs you have about money and then 3 positive beliefs you’d like to embody. It doesn’t have to be a dramatic change but rather a shift in the right direction, turning anxiety around money into a source of choice, independence and power.
“Money is scary and hard to handle” becomes “Money is an opportunity and a responsibility I am willing to learn about.”
- Define your money values
Although your money story stems from the past (and may have followed you into the present) your money values are inherently tied to your current personal needs. Defining your money values is another to shift your money narrative as you’re reminding yourself of what you’re saving for and why, bringing a whole new level of motivation to the table. One way to check up on your values is to have a look at your spending and evaluate your bank statements. Where you spend the most money is likely what you value the most, and this looks different for every person. There’s no shame if you value going out for meals every weekend with friends or drinks with colleagues at work; it simply means you value your social connections. However, it’s important that your spending is in line with your money values. For example, if you value your social life and spend accordingly, but you have a mortgage to pay, a debt to diminish and dependents to financially support such as children or pets, then you may have forgotten your important money values.
Your money values are as personal to you as your money story, and defining both is the key to knowing yourself and therefore working on and bettering yourself.
Ask yourself the below questions to start to get to the bottom of your values:
- Without looking at any evidence (receipts or bank statements) what do you think you value most?
- After evaluating the evidence, what does your spending reflect in terms of your values?
- Are you willing to cut back some of these purchases if they don’t align with your core value? Where could you improve?
Socrates once said, “to know thyself is the beginning of wisdom” and although it can be a confronting experience following the above steps to work out your money story and money values, it can also be the turning point for your savings goals. Ignorance is bliss, but there’s only so long we can close our eyes and sit in the dark, wondering why exactly our bank balance isn’t going up and why our goals aren’t being reached. One of the most transformative things you could do in your money journey to wealth is evaluate your thinking and work toward changing your habits.